Board urges census management improvements

In a break from the partisanship that has surrounded the 2000 census, the Census Monitoring Board Wednesday released a joint report to Congress making 18 unanimous recommendations to improve census operations.

"While there remain significant disagreements on many aspects of the census policy, the goal on which we all can agree is that of producing the most accurate possible census in the year 2000," the report said.

The eight-member panel urged Congress to relax employment restrictions to allow non-citizens to apply for census enumerator jobs, while recommending that the bureau establish standardized procedures for all personnel and temporary employees, form local partnerships to promote the census, and set up regional questionnaire assistance centers and distribute census forms widely to the public.

Many of the recommendations target staffing for hard to enumerate areas, which tend to be urban and minority populations. The report, which was due last Thursday, comes out a year before the official April 1, 2000, start date for the census.

The recommendations represent the common ground on the committee, but do not resolve the fundamental disagreement over statistical sampling.

Republicans have opposed the bureau's plan to use sampling for redistricting and other purposes, but the bureau and the Clinton administration, backed by congressional Democrats, plan to go forward with sampling while also conducting a more traditional count for apportionment purposes.

The board's cochairmen-former Democratic House Majority Whip Coelho and GOP Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell-wanted to issue the joint report after their first report, released in late January, came out in Republican and Democratic versions. The first report came out just days after the Supreme Court ruled the bureau could not use its statistical sampling plan for House apportionment; the bureau interprets the decision as allowing them to use sampling for redistricting and other purposes.

Charged with evaluating the bureau's implementation of the 2000 census, the board was the product of a compromise reached by House Republicans and President Clinton in the fiscal 1998 Commerce-Justice- State appropriations bill.

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